Laurel's Grandmother And Irving's Grandfather
Laurel Leary and Irving Blake were neighbors but not friends. They lived in the upscale newer neighborhood of houses built on former farmland of the Sun Rise Lake School for Boys. The houses were expensive and good looking, though not beach front as they sat on the ridge behind the school.
Irving might not have known who Laurel was had they not rode the school bus to Mt. Griffin each day. Sun Rise Lake did not have its own schools so year round residences school choiced to other town schools, although the community had an agreement with Mt. Griffin, the closest town.
The Leary and Blake families moved into the 'village estates' neighborhood at around the same time (third grade) and the two newcomers happened to be the same age so it turned out they were in the same class at Mt. Griffin in addition to riding the bus each day, though Laurel never sat with the kid that lived three houses down from her.
Still, it was comforting that neither were the new kid alone that first year, although Laurel seemed to adapt, adjust and make new friends much quicker and easier than Irving.
Laurel's last name of Leary became apropos for Irving who grew leery of the girl as the years progressed. She struck him as spoiled, snippy, and condescending as she often made fun of Irving who was reserved and introverted compared to Laurel's outgoing personality. She called him 'Bland' and Blank' as a play off his last name of Blake and later she began calling him "Irving Berlin" when she found out he was taking piano lessons. Laurel later shortened the nickname to just plain 'Berlin', a moniker that stuck through their middle school existence together at Mt. Griffin.
Irving was among the smartest in the class and he and Laurel (who was also quite talented) competed for the best grades in the class. Their 5th grade spelling bee when into quadruple overtime before Irving finally emerged victorious with the word preposterous, causing Laurel to exclaim that it was preposterous that he beat her!
Laurel beat Irving in the sixth grade science fair but he won the 7th grade essay contest and they managed to split the 8th grade prize for debating.
Laurel was more athletic than Irving by a long shot – he was known as a wimpy kid - but he was much more musically inclined, still taking piano lessons and easily the most talented musician of the bunch.
Laurel was much more social and popular with an outgoing personality and sense of humor although the more serious and disciplined Irving could come out with a wry witty sardonic remark when he wanted, usually one that went over the heads of others.
Irving always had a book in his hand while Laurel was glued to her IPhone and IPad.
Laurel was among the best dressed of her peers with stylist expensive clothes, fancy hairdos, and the first to wear make-up among the rest of the girls in their class. She was among the first to develop, too, and by eighth grade, she had a noticeable bosom for her age. She was naturally pretty even before all the cosmetics and fashionable attire with auburn brown hair, a perk nose, light freckles, and penetrating blue eyes.
Irving was not as tall as her and he still hadn't caught up to her by the time eighth grade was wrapping up. He wore wire rimmed glasses with a floppy hairstyle he never seemed to pay attention to.
Laurel and Irving were not the types that were going to hang around together beyond the morning bus stop. Irving had never been to one of Laurel's birthday parties or other gatherings and he avoided her in the common places at school like the cafeteria and library although their paths often crisscrossed and they were frequently teamed together on various class projects.
Irving had learned to tolerate Laurel through the years but he was just as happy to avoid her when possible, mostly because he got annoyed at her teasing of him even though he probably should have been flattered that a girl like her paid him any attention at all.
Just the same, Irving was happily relieved on the last day of eighth grade, content on ending his middle school career and looking forward to a new start in high school. He headed for the bus at the end of the last class on the last day of eighth grade and he was seated in his usual seat when Laurel boarded the bus with a couple of her friends who also lived at the lake.
"Well, see you next year, Berlin," Laurel said with a smirk as she passed him on the bus. "Looking forward to ridiculing you all through high school."
"Nope, you won't have me to kick around anymore," Irving said with noticeable satisfaction and contentment.
"What do you mean?" Laurel asked, stopping in the aisle and squinting at him.
"I'm going to the Sun Rise Lake School for Boys next year," he announced.
"Huh?" Laurel was caught by surprise. "Why?"
Irving laughed out loud. "What do you mean why?" He asked with disbelief. "It's a great school!"
"Yeah, but who am I going to compete against?" She complained. "Come on, you don't want to go that preppy elitist homo place."
"My father works there," Irving frowned.
"He does?" Laurel asked, clueless. Irving was surprised when she pushed herself into his seat. "What does he do?"
"He's a math teacher," Irving said. "Why do you think we moved into the village estates in the first place?"
"And your mom?"
"She's a school counselor there," Irving revealed.
"Oh." Laurel sounded disappointed.
Irving knew that Laurel's Dad was some bigwig CEO of some company in Miller City and that her mom was active in the lake community's social activities. His feelings were hurt that Laurel had no clue what his parents did all these years.
The door to the bus closed and Irving's last ride home from the Mt. Griffin school began.
"Aren't you going to go sit with your friends?" He asked Laurel who was staring out the bus window with a sad look on her face.
"How can you abandon me, Berlin?" She wanted to know.
"Abandon?" He asked with confusion.
"We started out together here," Laurel reminded him. "I just assumed we'd finish up together too."
"Sorry," Irving replied. He gave her a funny look. "I honestly didn't think you'd care."
"Well, I do," she said with a huff. "I thought we made a good team."
"You picked on me," Irving frowned. "Made fun of me. Called me names."
"That was part of our act," Laurel explained. "You were the straight man to my comedy."
He gave her a blank stare. "Didn't you ever notice that I wasn't laughing?"
"Oh, lighten up, Berlin," she said, dismissing his complaint with a wave of her hand. "Where's your sense of humor?"
Irving let out a sigh. He wasn't sure if he should be annoyed or flattered. Did this mean Laurel actually liked him all this time?
"Hey, Laurel, come back here with us!" One of her friends called from the back of the bus where all the cool kids sat.
"Okay, in a minute," Laurel yelled in reply. She turned her attention to Irving. "I'm going to miss you, Berlin," she said quietly. "Good luck with the boys."
She slipped out of the seat and went to join her friends. Irving felt a mix of emotions welt up inside of him, wondering if he had blown a chance to have a true friend all these years or if Laurel was just waxing nostalgic now that middle school was over.
Laurel didn't say anything to him when the bus reached their drop off point in front of the village estates, gossiping with her friends as they got off the bus but Irving noticed that she did throw him one last look as she walked ahead of him with her friends.